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Jon Prine

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Formerly of Castanets and currently 4/5 of Phosphorescent, Virgin Forest have logged more miles together than some bands twice their age. Countless tours, drinks, laughs, drugs, fisticuffs, stories and friends made and forgotten in service of something larger have resulted in hard-won chemistry and fluidity. The guys are all musicians’ musicians; their playing is organic and instinctual, edgy but refined. A thinking person’s "guitar band."

When it came time to record their first album for Partisan Records, Easy Way Out, no rehearsals were necessary. Movements were automatic and intuitive and the songs were where they have always been -- palmed from the ether, apprehended, brought to justice, and available now to confront any willing ear. Easy Way Out is a balls out rock record made by guys who make no bones about who they are and where they're coming from: people ill-suited for the "straight" world and often at odds with it. Guys who learned their craft in front of a live audience, not laptop-jockey rock warriors celebrating their first legal drink simultaneously on Twitter, Facebook and the bar they're actually in.

Virgin Forest's debut LP, Joy Atrophy, was the sound of the band being eaten from inside. Love and ruin held hands, with the latter ultimately metastasizing and bringing about the end of Chapter One. With Easy Way Out, we find Virgin Forest in a new place and it's way out. With nothing to lose and less to gain, frontman Scott Stapleton performs each song as if it's his last. There is nothing held back, no promise left unfulfilled. His multi-octave vocals and edgy Jeffrey Lee Pierce-esquevibrato gives these raw rock songs a sense of urgency - Stapleton sounds gleefully unhinged on some of these tracks. There's a vocal force and control and a sense of dynamics that makes Stapleton a rare bird in the "indie" world. It's also attracted such disparate fans as Grammy-winning songwriter David Gray, among others.

Musically, on songs like the epic, heavy track "Don't Be Afraid," seemingly disparate aesthetics are effortlessly corralled by Virgin Forest's expert musical wrangling. Townes Van Zandt, The Band, and fistfuls of Metal are all valid points of entry to understandwhereVirgin Forest is coming from. But where they end up is a place distinctly their own.

Leaving behind anytraces of genre, Virgin Forest's ambition and ability reveals itself casually at first; waiting patiently to be discovered. Full heft of their potential is gradually revealed when you measure Easy Way Out against what passes as "great records" in these times. What you hear on their album is what you'll hear live.


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